Leadership Theories

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Leadership theories

Leadership theories



The introduction discusses about the traits and features of leaders. The paper discusses about the different qualities which a leader possesses.

Contemporary Leadership Theory

Contemporary leadership theory is typically associated with the body of work emerging as part of what Rost called the postindustrial paradigm. Broadly, these theories reframed leadership as a dynamic and reciprocal process between people pursuing a common goal.

Theoretical Evolution

Early 20th-century perspectives on leadership typically reflected leader-centric approaches focusing on the leader as a positional authority.

Trait Theory

Similar to the Great Man Theory, a new development, Trait Theory, held that people were born with certain character traits. It assumed that if people with the correct traits could be identified these same people would be the natural leaders

Transformational Theory

Transformational leaders are those who inspire others, empower others, offer a vision of a better way or future, and aspire to high ethical standards.

Situational-contingency theories

The primary thesis of contingency theory is that a leadership style that is appropriate in one situation may be inappropriate in another situation.

Servant Leadership

Generated concurrently with Burns's work in the 1970s, AT&T executive Robert Greenleaf published a series of papers viewing the positional leader as the servant of ideas and the servant of enabling others in the organization to achieve desired outcomes.

Relational, Collaborative, and Shared Leadership Theories

The emergence of followers from the shadows of the leadership conversation to centrality in the discussion led to valuing compositional leadership and viewing leadership as a process.

The Social Change Model of Leadership Development

This holistic model is the most widely used with college student leadership programs advocating for socially responsible leadership in any context.

Complexity Leadership

The theory identifies three forms of leadership (i.e., administrative, enabling, and adaptive) that interact within the hierarchical, organizational systems in which individuals function.

Authentic Leadership

This authenticity leads to what Avolio and Gardner referred to as an inclusive, ethical, caring, and strength-based organizational climate.

Reemergence of Trait and Behavioral Theories

These theories largely offer a revised set of learnable skills and/or preferred behaviors related to leadership styles that are more consistent with contemporary leadership theory.

Reconceptualization of Industrial Theories

Just as trait and behavioral theories have been reconceptualized to reflect contemporary leadership theory, scholars have also attempted to adapt other industrial models to fit postindustrial perspectives.

Common Themes Across Contingency Leadership Theories

Contingency leadership theory, and particularly the emergent thinking of the past decade, is characterized by a number of critical themes.

Importance of Self Awareness

Early postindustrial theories varied in the degree to which they positioned leader self-awareness as important.


Leadership is a process that is ultimately concerned with fostering and creating change.

Leadership theories


The term leadership, by its very nature, is laden with meaning often derived from the interpreter's varied life history. For some, this represents an internalized identity, shared processes, or civic engagement grounded in experiences as social activists, with developmental mentors, or from positive group experiences. For others, the term may elicit a more negative interpretation associated with abuses of power, positional, or an impersonal focus on end goals. These interpretations are often the effect of sociohistorical marginalization or ...
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